Posted in Battle of the Bulge: Cooking and Lifestyle

Battle of the Bulge: Tofu Edition

Through my research over the past few months, I have ventured into the world of Tofu as a meat replacement in meals to add protein. I have learned that there are usually three different types of commonly found Tofu that can be purchased at local grocery stores.

  1. Soft tofu (which has a high water content and is best used to scramble up like eggs or put into smoothies)
  2. Medium firm tofu (which can be fried or baked, best used in soups)
  3. Firm or Extra firm tofu (which has the lowest water content and therefore is the best to pan fry or oven bake and it becomes crispy. Can be used as a meat replacement in stir fry, sandwiches, etc)

For beginners, it is best to use firm or extra firm Tofu as it is the easiest to cook and work with a meat replacement. Tofu can be seasoned with any spices or sauces and tofu will take on the taste of those sauces used so it is very versatile. When pan fried or cooked in the oven, it will brown up and take on a cripsy texture.

I chose to experiment with extra firm tofu, pan fried for about 5 minutes and soaked in Teriyaki sauce. Then added sesame seeds.

The recipe I played around with was using the teriyaki soaked tofu, quinoa, and spinach in vegan roll wraps. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Absolutely delicious! I used only half of the tofu package and freezed the other half for later use.

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Posted in Anxiety and Experience

Depression and Other Magic Tricks

Depression and anxiety present themselves differently for everyone and people learn how to cope on their own terms. For some people, they can function fairly well without the need for assistance. For others, they completely shut down while they are in a depressive episode. It took going to therapy and doing my own research to discover that one does not need to be able to accomplish everything at 100% to get by. Some of the hardest things I find to do while I am in a seriously depressed or anxious state is to get myself up out of bed, showered, and properly fed. I learned over the years that if you cannot bring yourself to do the full things that there are tips to getting by.

On days where I know I have somewhere I have to go and must look presentable such as work or a family function, but I just cannot bare the thought of taking a full shower, I know that I can use dry shampoo on my hair. I know that I can use wipes for a quick wash on the face and body to freshen up. I may not be able to bring myself to brush my teeth but I know that if I bring a travel size tooth brush with me I may feel pressured to brush my teeth once I am around people. I may not look perfect but my hair will be brushed and off my face, my face wiped clean, and it will help me to feel a bit better.

For days that I cannot bring myself to eat a full meal, the effort of having to cook seems too daunting or overwhelming, I have learned to snack. I make sure I bring with me granola bars, fruit, or trail mix. Something easy to munch on that will be easy to eat on the go. I keep snacks in my drawer at work so that if I finally do get hungry I have something easy that I can grab. The healthier the options you put aside for later, the better you will feel in the moment when you actually need to get into that stash.

Finally, the best thing I ever did for myself was a pack a “walking pharmacy”. In this pouch I have packed everything that I could possibly need on a weekly/monthly basis including medications, band aids, a nail kit, ear plugs, a tangle teaser or fidget cube, chapstick, and wipes. Knowing that if I ever get an upset stomach or a headache I have the medications that I need on hand is a big relief. I may not need every single thing in that pouch every single day, but I have used it long enough to know that eventually through out the month myself or someone around me will need something from that pouch. It helps ease me during really anxious days because I know right where everything is and it is small enough that I can move it to whatever bag I am using. **For more information, Pretty Neat Living on YouTube.com has a whole slew of videos on the subject which was my inspiration**

Posted in Live a Thousand Lives: Read

National Book Lovers Day: My Bookshelf

In honor of yesterday being National Book Lovers day (August 9th), I thought I would make a list of some of my current favorite books and authors with summaries. So if you see something that interests you, feel free to add it to your “to read” pile!

1. Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom

“Morrie is an extremely lovable college professor who—in his late sixties—finds out that he is dying. The story of his last few weeks on earth is told by Mitch, one of Morrie’s former students, who happens to bump into him during his final days.”

2. The Grave Series by Darynda Jones

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e., murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

3. Cell by Stephen King

Cell is an apocalyptic horror novel by American author Stephen King, published in 2006. The story follows a New England artist struggling to reunite with his young son after a mysterious signal broadcast over the global cell phone network turns the majority of his fellow humans into mindless vicious animals.

4. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family’s destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman’s quest to survive and triumph. “

5. Speak by Laurie Anderson

After a blurred trauma over the summer, Melinda enters high school a selective mute. Struggling with school, friends, and family, she tells the dark tale of her experiences, and why she has chosen not to speak. In the book Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Melinda Sordino is forced into the worst year of her life.

She also followed this up with a book about her own traumatic experience that was the spark of inspiration for Speak, called Shout.

6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the lives of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

7. The Border Chronicles by Bertrice Small

“The Border Chronicles” is a series that was written by Bertrice Small, an author of historical romance and erotica, that has appeared on many different best seller lists in her long career. She is also considered the queen of historical fiction, and writes with an erotica and earthy style. The series takes place in the English and Scottish borderlands before and during the Tudors period.”

8. Unf*ck Your Habitat:You’re better than your mess by Rachel Hoffman

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up andAdulting, this philosophy is more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve for it to bring you happiness, not stress.

9. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Keri Maniscalco

Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion. Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

10. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

“The Stranger Beside Me is a 1980 autobiographical and biographical true crime book written by Ann Rule about the serial killer Ted Bundy, whom she knew personally before and after his arrest for a series of murders.

Posted in Battle of the Bulge: Cooking and Lifestyle

The Battle of the Bulge: Dairy Edition

For most of my teenage and young adult years, I have struggled with controlling my weight and have poorly managed stomach issues. I have gone to see specialist after specialist, with little to no relief. Yo-yo fad diets, quick fixes, and easy fast meals have led to my health declining in a very major way. After a visit to the E.R., another specialist, and further testing, I am beginning to see just how important proper nutrition plays a role in how I feel.

My GI specialist gave me a list of certain foods to try my best to eliminate or cut way back on from my diet. Top of the list was dairy products, fruits high in sugar, and gluten. So I set out on a mission on my next grocery trip to really take the time to inspect the nutrition labels of common foods I had been mindlessly buying and consuming. I was shocked by how many things contain unnecessary added sugars, dairy, and dyes. It took me a while to find healthier alternatives and I cannot say I did perfectly. There are some things that I could not easily find an alternative for but I did the best I could this time around.

A couple things I figured I would give a try include but are not limited to:

-Almond “milk” creamer

-Lactose free milk

-Almond milk cream “cheese” spread

-Just Egg (Plant Based Egg Replacement)

-Lactose free vanilla Activia Yogurt

-Gluten free pasta

-Veggie pasta

-Dairy free edible cookie dough dessert

-Strawberry Poppyseed dressing

Just Egg plant based, after being scrambled. Looks pretty close to real eggs. Added pepper and garlic powder for taste, and really could not taste a difference.

Now of course, moderation is key here. I am learning to retrain my brain and my body that less is really more. I am retraining my taste buds to foods that only have naturally occurring sugars or very small quantities of processed sugars instead of the normal heaps of processed sugars I am used to. I am taking small steps to learn the correct portion size for things (pasta has been the hardest!). I have also learned that using smaller plates and bowls makes the portion size look bigger and I am left more satisfied. A lot of it is in the mind.

For me, I still do not have a lot of answers for what is going on in my stomach. I am by no means an expert. I still consume meat and dairy and processed sugar when I know I should not be consuming as much as I do. I am still struggling with my body weight. But I know that every little bit counts and the more I work on making small changes every day, I will see improvements. I can already tell that my stomach pain has lessened removing regular dairy milk and creamer from my diet.

**Before starting any major diet/food change be sure to consult your doctor and research what is best for you and your health needs. The goal is not perfection here. The goal is just looking and feeling better.**

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

Turning Negatives into Positives: Making Delicious Food with Spoiled Scraps

There are definitely times when everything feels like it is falling apart. There are weeks when it feels like I no sooner bring home fresh produce from the grocery story and within what feels like a matter of hours I open my fridge to find that it has spoiled or is on its way to going bad. And if I’m honest, that certainly can put me in a foul mood. Just like with spoiled produce, I have moments in my life where I feel like everything is going smoothly and then out of no where something happens that turns my world upside down.

But there is a silver lining to finding that your blueberries have turned sour and your bananas ripened… you get to make delicious banana bread!

Just like with spoiled produce, all it takes is a little imagination and positive vibes to turn your difficult situation around, no matter what it is. For me, I find that channeling my frustrations and anxiety into baking gives me an outlet. I am able to keep my hands busy so as not to turn to destructive habits, my mind is able to focus on the task at hand without feeling overwhelmed, and at the end I will have the results from my labor: delicious banana bread.

You know the old adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, when life gives you ripened bananas, make banana bread. Reflect on what is going on in that moment that is causing you stress, anxiety, or frustration. Focus on both the positives as well as the negatives of the situation. Think of possible ways that you can channel those emotions in a more positive direction. You may find that though the problem does not entirely disappear, it can become more manageable.

You may still have a craptastic situation that has you feeling all turned around, but maybe if you channel your energy in the right direction, you will have banana bread to munch on while you figure the rest out.

Posted in Music That Feeds the Soul

Music that Feeds the Soul: June Favorites

Current favorites that calmed/inspired/moved me in June include:

  1. Gabbie Hanna-Honestly
  2. Avi Kaplan-The Summit
  3. Panic At the Disco-Sarah Smiles
  4. Sia-Breathe Me
  5. Watsky-Hey, Asshole, Sloppy Seconds
  6. Bebe Rexha-I’m a Mess
  7. Atmosphere- The Best Day
  8. Bryce Vine- Drew Barrymore
  9. Marshmello & Anne-Marie- Friends
  10. Jesse Reyes-Figures
  11. Jon Bellion- Guillotine , Paper Planes
  12. Blackbear-Dirty Laundry
  13. Linkin Park-Heavy
  14. James Arthur- Say You Won’t Let Go
  15. Hilary Duff- Tattoo